Today’s Engagement Question:
How can I Maximize My Telework Effectiveness?
Problem: Working outside of the office or in solitude can create different types of stress and create feelings of disengagement.
Solution: Applying a few mental and physical strategies can increase productivity and reduce stress.
Let’s begin to look at some trending data points to validate the value in teleworking. According to Global Workplace Analytics 2019 report, telecommuting has grown by 115% since 2005. That’s nearly 10 times faster than the rest of the workforce. In fact, 37% would take a pay cut to telework. And, this was prior to the COVID -19 pandemic. It is safe to say as leaders see the well documented benefits of telework to engagement, morale and productivity, telework is not going away.
Here are a few secrets to give you a leg up on the others. The result is creating trust as a valued partner on the team. The actions you do take from here can build trust. Trust is the essential component for an effective telework team. Sometimes we need to go out of our way to build and maintain it as a teleworker. This is about investing in the team.
Let’s now look at these secrets.
SECRET 1: Know Your Work Style
There are 4 different work styles and each literally work differently in isolation. Some are more self-motivated, and others require clear direction. Most of us are a hybrid of all of the styles depending upon pressure, stress level, etc. Each style has it’s unique benefits. And, each has it’s preferences around how they prefer to accomplish their work.
- SELF-DIRECTED: Are you autonomous? Appreciate concise information? Quick to make decisions? Good at working to check items off of your list? Keep a busy calendar? Like to get to the bottom-line? Stressed by indecision and rambling? On time?
- MOTIVATED: Do you like being on the company of others? Getting things done fast with a tendency for typos and other errors? Prefer to avoid a repetitive routine? Crave change? Like to celebrate team accomplishments and milestones? Share your accomplishments?
- SECURED: Do you like to avoid conflict? Tend to take on a lot because have a hard time saying NO? Crave a predictable routine? Like time to build rapport and establish trust? Prefers consistency to change. Like to get to know others before getting down to business in meetings?
- ORDERLY: Do you prefer to work in seclusion (alone)? Focused on getting the job done right? Ask a series of questions to understand? Use a systematic process and needs time to reflect, research and understand? Appreciates clearly outlined and reliable step-by-step procedures? On time? Appreciate reliable details and evidence?
Know your style preference and build a strategy to support your work strengths. Each person should have a remote telework strategy and structure specific to accommodate their work style.
SECRET 2: Create deliberate mental triggers.
If working from home is new, you need to put triggers in place to help you create a new habit. You literally need to rewire your brain. Creating a structure will help you with this. Remember it takes 21 days to create new neural connections. What will you put into place?
EXAMPLE: Establish consistently recurring work hours.
Set a specific schedule for when you will start and end your workdays. If you are the most productive at the beginning of the day, use that to your advantage to focus on critical or challenging tasks.
SECRET 3: Designate a conducive home base
Designate a place in your home specifically for work. Even if this isn’t a separate room, having a desk or table dedicated for work is a huge help for me. At times, all I had was the sofa in our living room. Now, I reserved that space for work and work alone, which made it much easier to turn my brain off when the workday was done. Ok, so I do let my dog Oscar join me. A benefit of working here at home.
SECRET 4: Create work/home boundaries
Establish ground rules with others sharing your space. Setting ground rules by communicating your work schedule with those in your space and letting them know the ground rules about what they can and cannot do during the time will help. This may be a work in progress as distractions begin to make themselves known. An example may be asking others for privacy and to avoid high-bandwidth activities if sharing the network connection.
You need to invest in your environment. Enjoy the space you create. Take your time. Here are a few things you can experiment with as a teleworker:
- Where you work — co-working space, cafe
- What you wear — pajamas, casual clothes, business clothes
- What times you work and when you start
- What type of work you do during certain times of the day — creative work, monotonous work
- When you take breaks and what you do during those breaks — go out for a walk, eat a snack or meal
- What you listen to in the background
When it comes to boundaries, let’s not forget the impact of clearly understanding your responsibilities and those of others. This allows for a solid foundation for effective communication. It is also the foundation for establishing trust, essential to a telework team. This leads us into the next secret.
SECRET 5: Create practices for self-accountability
When you’re working in an office, you’re bordering people who could spontaneously verify in your work creating a level of built in accountability. Being discovered as not productive motivate you to maintain focus. As a teleworker, you won’t enjoy such a source of accountability.
You need to create some source of accountability so that if you get distracted, you will be able to notice it quickly and get back to work. There are a couple of ways you can do this as a teleworker.
- Chunk blocks of time: Be realistic, expect the unexpected and consider recurring tasks.
- Calendar tasks and meetings: Allows time for you to prepare.
- Publicly commit: Keeps you likely to follow through.
- Prioritize: Use RACI, ABC priorities or the Eisenhower Matrix.
- Use To-Do Lists: Write it down to get it out of your head.
SECRET 6: Be noticeable at work
Does “out of sight” have to mean “out of mind?” No. But it can. If you are out of mind, you risk becoming disconnected from your team. Effective teleworkers are deliberate at making themselves as visible as possible. Being noticed will make it easy for other people to find out what you’re working on.
This is important because it will help keep you accountable, as we just covered — if people know what you’re working on, you’re more likely to finish. And, I have to say it bluntly, it is your responsibility to stay visible.
The reality is, your manager and co-workers will have other things to do aside from checking in on you. Respond to messages timely. Go out of your way the be the first to respond—be credible and accurate. Double check your work for typos, accuracy and spelling.
Also, being visible will make it easier for other people to assign you tasks and perhaps even consider you for that promotion. Make your schedule visible so know you’re busy, they may assign a task to someone else. This also creates transparency. Essential to trust. Again that word, trust.
SECRET 7: Maintain good health and well-being
Make sure you have some time in your day to go out for a walk or do some other type of exercise. You should aim to get outside for at least a few minutes each day. Taking breaks away from work can also help you be more creative and work harder when it comes time to get back to work. I have even put them on my schedule.
Having my dog, Oscar helps. He requires regular walks. This also allows me to socialize. I did occasionally go to a Starbucks or even just outside to work on the patio. I enjoy this and it helps me remain connected to the outside world. Plus, we are social as humans and require socialization to help clear our thoughts, unwind, etc.
Remember other health factors. Sunshine is essential for vitamin E; get some. And, you should keep hydrated. It can be easy for me to get in the zone and be focused that I lose track of time and realize I have had nothing to eat or drink for hours. I set a timer to remind me and have a cup of water on my desk before I start my day.
SUMMARY: YOUR HOMEWORK
Teleworking effectively requires focusing on your actions in a deliberate way to build trust. Consider a holistic approach that is unique to you and your working preferences. Also, consider others and go out of your way to maintain a reliable presence.
This post has hopefully opened a few blind spots for you, even if it is just one point of clarity. Now you have a choice. What will you do? Paraphrasing Ben Franklin, “No plan is a plan to fail.”
Identify your work style preference(s). Create your personal telework strategy.
Consider the secrets listed above. Determine from each of the secrets, actions you can incorporate that will support your workstyle best. Make this list and post it as your project plan. Prioritize these items and document your final plan. Post it where you can see it every day. After 1-week move it somewhere else where you can see it every day.
What actions will you take next? I am excited to hear about your progress.
RESOURCES: Ask me about my WEBINAR programs Teleworking for Employees and Managing Teleworkers. These are highly interactive, relevant and evidence based for effectiveness.